Water logged

Last September, a report with the dryly scientific name “Hydrogeology and Simulation of Groundwater Flow in the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, South-Central Oklahoma” [pdf] was published, and the abstract thereof began this way:

The Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer in south-central Oklahoma provides water for public supply, farms, mining, wildlife conservation, recreation, and the scenic beauty of springs, streams, and waterfalls. Proposed development of water supplies from the aquifer led to concerns that large-scale withdrawals of water would cause decreased flow in rivers and springs, which in turn could result in the loss of water supplies, recreational opportunities, and aquatic habitat. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board, in collaboration with the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Oklahoma, studied the aquifer to provide the Oklahoma Water Resources Board the scientific information needed to determine the volume of water that could be withdrawn while protecting springs and streams.

The Board has now rendered its decision, and while public hearings are still in the offing, it’s clear that the Board thinks the aquifer is being too rapidly depleted:

The board approved recommendations from its staff that would lower the amount of water that can be withdrawn from the aquifer in a single year from two acre feet per acre to two-tenths of an acre foot per acre.

(Emphasis added.)

This 90-percent reduction would be phased in over five years.

On one side of the issue: municipal water supplies, who see stabilization of the aquifer as a major priority, even if it costs them some money in the short run. On the other: agriculture, which needs, or at least says it needs, pretty much all the water it can get.

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